Hundreds of veterans are planning to assemble at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota to protect and stand with protestors from Dec. 4-7.
A GoFundMe page for Veterans for Standing Rock calls for "veterans to assemble as a peaceful, unarmed militia" and "defend the water protectors from assault and intimidation at the hands of the militarized police force and DAPL security."
Funds from the campaign will reportedly be put towards travel, meals and supplies for attending veterans. At the time of publish, the group had raised more than $490,294 towards their $750,000 goal.
The group was organized by Wesley Clark Jr., a veteran and screenwriter, and Michael Wood Jr., a Marine Corps veteran and retired Baltimore police officer. Clark told CNN that he felt compelled to join the Standing Rock protest after he a report from a tribal elder moved him to tears. "People are concerned about the way the elders who are praying are being brutalized, and what we are doing to the planet," said Clark.
Why People Are Gathered at Standing Rock
For months, water protectors have gathered at Standing Rock to demonstrate against the construction of the proposed $3.7 billion Dakota Access Pipeline. The 1,172-mile-long infrastructure would transport 470,000 barrels of crude oil a day from North Dakota to Illinois. A section of the oil pipeline would run through the Missouri River, a source of clean water for the Sioux and millions of others. A potential pipe burst would contaminate the water and ecosystem. Greenhouse gas emissions are another factor. Construction would also impact Native American lands, which the U.S. government ceded to the Great Sioux Nation under the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1851.
Why Veterans Are Going to Standing Rock
As winter closes in on North Dakota, the scene at Standing Rock has turned grim. Last Sunday (11/20), police retaliation turned violent. Police and security forces blasted water cannons, fired rubber bullets and launched tear gas on protestors. The Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council reported that at least 300 people were injured. One 21-year-old woman may lose her arm after she was hit by a concussion grenade; however, a post on the Morton Country Sheriff's Department Facebook page said the grenade was not theirs nor used by law enforcement.
Journalists have been under fire too. In early November, one reporter was shot by a rubber bullet while filming an interview.
The Seattle Times spoke with physician, Robie Sterling, who was there. "It was twenty-something degrees, and people are crying, and people are screaming," Sterling said. "You know, I don't know what a war zone feels like. But it didn't feel right. It didn't feel right that this was happening to unarmed people who were just expressing their freedom of speech."
In recent months, many people have traveled to Standing Rock to stand with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and protest the pipeline. Veterans for Standing Rock say they aim to protect those who are peacefully making their voices heard. "It's time to display that honor, courage, and commitment we claim to represent," says a statement on the page. "It's time for real Patriots. Now more than ever, it's time for anyone and everyone to lead."